I love to go looking for frogs in the wild and with 7,500 known frog species worldwide, it can sometimes it can be very surprising to discover what they look like! But before diving into specifics, here is a general rule as to what frogs look like:
A frog is a cold-blooded vertebrate amphibian with bulging eyes, a long sticky tongue, no neck, short front legs, and long hind legs, a tympanum behind their eyes, and has no tail at the adult stage.
But there are many exceptions to this general rule. Some frogs look very different from what you would expect to see. Let’s dive further into what some frogs look like based on a general rule, and the specific type of frog.
What Frogs Generally Look Like
All frogs are classified in the Anura Order, one of the three Orders that categorize amphibious species. General Anura characteristics include a squat, tailless adult body with long hind limbs, large eyes, and an external tympanum.
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Frogs naturally bulging eyes and, other than some monkeys and fish, this is pretty rare in nature. Frogs also have long sticky tongues to wrap up their prey and swallow it whole and alive. Some other lizards do this as well, but overall it is also a rare way to eat in nature.
Frogs have long springy hind legs to help propel them and jump away from predators. Other than kangaroos, bunnies, and grasshoppers, few animals predominantly jump to get around.
Overall, there are three main types of frogs if you look at it in a non-scientific way: aquatic frogs, arboreal frogs (or tree frogs) and terrestrial frogs (or toads). Each of these types of frogs have very different characteristics to fit in with their different ways of interacting with their environments.
Let’s have a closer look at each type of frog and what they look like.
What Aquatic Frogs Look Like
Aquatic Frogs primarily live in water, have long powerful legs, and webbed feet to propel them when swimming. Aquatic frogs generally spend most of the day sitting in water to stay hydrated and oxygenated.
Some of the largest frog species on the planet including Javan Giant Frogs, Edible Frogs, American Bullfrogs, African Bullfrogs and Anatolian Water Frogs, are aquatic species. These frogs have the advantage of being powerful swimmers thanks to their strong hind legs and webbed toes.
American Bullfrogs are the largest aquatic frog species in North America and can often be found in large marshes, bogs, and ponds that have active wildlife they can eat.
Large aquatic frogs are ferocious predators and eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths. Thanks to their large size, they have fewer predators than many other aquatic frog species.
Here are a few more aquatic frog species and their characteristics:
|Aquatic Frog||Primary Color||Characteristic|
|Green Frog||Green||Sounds Like a Banjo|
|Northern Leopard Frog||Green||Leopard-Like Spots|
|Pacman Frogs||Green, Yellow, Orange||“Horned” Eyes|
|African Dwarf Frogs||Cream, Brown||Fully Aquatic|
|African Clawed Frog||Cream, Brown||Fully Aquatic|
Aquatic frogs can generally be found living in or near bodies of fresh, slow-moving water such as lakes, ponds, streams, bogs, fens, and marshes.
Therefore, aquatic Frogs primarily live in water, and so their bodies are perfectly adapted to their environment. However, arboreal frogs mainly live in or around trees. Let’s have a closer look at what tree frogs look like.
What Tree Frogs Look Like
Tree frogs can be found worldwide and have pads on their toes to stick to bark, branches, and leaves. Tree frogs are generally smaller animals with the agile ability to climb trees and stick to leaves.
Tree frogs, or arboreal frogs, are a diverse family with over 800 species around the world. The unique thing about this species of amphibians is that not every tree frog lives in trees. Instead, the species are defined by their suction-cup toes that are designed to help them climb.
Here are some examples of tree frogs and their main characteristics:
|Frog Species||Primary Color||Characteristics|
|American Green Tree Frogs||Green||Large|
|Poison Dart Frogs||Yellow, Red, Blue||Highly Toxic|
|Spring Peeper Frogs||Brown||Very Loud|
|Red-Eyed Tree Frogs||Green||Red Eyes|
Poison Dart Frogs are small, agile, and a very colorful diverse species native to South America. Among the 200 different types of Poison Dart Frogs that may be spotted, striped or solid yellow, blue, red, black, orange, or gold.
Poison dart frogs are colorful to show their predators they are highly toxic and not to be eaten. Because of this, they only have one main predator (other than their own species) which is a snake that has developed a resistance to their poison and can eat them with no consequences.
Tree frogs are made for their tropical, forested, or tree-filled environments. But toads look different from tree frogs and are made for their different habits which include digging.
What Toads Look Like
Generally, toads have dry warty skin, parotoid glands behind their eyes that secrete poison, stubby bodies with short legs for digging, a broad nose, are a dull color, and live on land.
Frogs and toads are both amphibians and Anura, and all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. Generally, toads spend most of the day on land in holes that they burrow in to breathe, drink, stay hydrated, and hide from predators.
As a general rule, frogs lay eggs in clusters whereas toads lay eggs in strings. The eggs transform into tadpoles and frog tadpoles generally have gold speckles in them, whereas toad tadpoles are a solid dark shade. Once they become froglets or toadlets, frogs will remain near or in water, whereas toads live on land.
Toads are active at night when they come out to hunt. Whereas aquatic frogs spend most of their time sitting and breathing in water during the day.
Toads cannot climb very high, whereas tree frogs have padded toes made for climbing. But toads legs and toes help them be excellent at digging (CTNF).
Toads have a large Parotid gland on their backs behind their eyes. These glands secrete poison to scare, harm, or kill predators.
See more differences between toads and frogs on our blog
Common Frog Anatomy Questions
Which Animal can Jump Farther a Frog or a Toad? Frogs can jump 10 feet, but kangaroos can jump much further at 25 feet in a single leap. Toads are not made for jumping and prefer crawling so a rabbit that can jump 9 feet can jump much further than most toads.
How do I Identify a Toad? In order to identify a toad, look to see if it looks like a frog with shorter legs if you found the animal on land if it has dry warty skin, and a parotid gland on its back behind its eye. If it does not jump far and has these features, it is probably a toad.